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Living with violence

violence; emotional; physical; sexual; bullying; harassment; religious; fight; domestic;


We live in a world where for most people violence is part of our everyday lives. We see violence on the news, in the movies, or on TV. We read about it and we all suffer the consequences of it when our society makes our lives more complicated in order to keep us safe.

Violence is anything that is intentionally done to make someone feel afraid, controlled or powerless; it is more than just physical violence.

But what if violence is part of your own life? You could be living with a violent parent, or another violent adult in the family, or a violent brother or sister, or with a violent partner.

What is violence?

Violence is not only physical assault. It is any action that is meant to make others feel hurt, scared or humiliated.

Violence can be:

  • Physical – where someone is hurting or trying to hurt you or someone you care about, even your pets.
  • Emotional/verbal – where someone is threatening, bullying or harassing you. Maybe they are persistently using put-downs, giving 'dirty' looks, swearing at you or totally ignoring you.
  • Sexual - sexual acts when someone does not want it, or things like someone exposing themselves. Have a look at the topic Surviving sexual abuse for more information about this.
  • Financial - using money as a source of power over someone. Eg making you dependent on them for money, forcing you to beg or do other things for money.
  • Social - the use of social life to control someone or make them feel bad about themselves. Eg not letting someone choose their own friends, being mean about someone's family or friends and making them feel unwelcome, forcing or manipulating you into giving up your family and friends, rumour spreading.
  • Spiritual - The use of religion, faith or beliefs as a form of control or to hurt. Eg preventing you from keeping your own faith, forcing or manipulating you to participate in beliefs or ceremonies you don't want to, scaring or hurting you by the use of certain beliefs.

Effects of violence

You may feel:

  • Fear for the safety or well-being of yourself and others you care about, eg your parent or your brothers and sisters.
  • Guilty, thinking that it's somehow your fault- "I shouldn't have done…", "I shouldn't have said…"
  • Ashamed - "What will other people think of me?"
  • Anxiety and nervousness- always afraid and expecting violence.
  • Anger at your attacker or others for not protecting you.
  • That you have to make excuses for the attacker "they didn't really mean to…", "they were upset," "this is because they were abused…" "I'm so clumsy - I fell down the steps".

Remember that you are not responsible for someone else choosing to act violently. Everyone is in charge of their own behaviour and makes their own choices about what they do.

What if you are the person who is being violent?

  • You could face an assault or other criminal charge - violence is against the law.
  • You could lose friends, family, partners or your job.
  • Violence ruins relationships if you lose the trust and respect of others.

Your own wellbeing can be affected

  • ChoicesYou could get into trouble with the law.
  • You could feel that you are not in control of your life.
  • You could feel guilt, shame or disbelief about your behaviour - "I am a bad person for doing this".
  • You could feel anger at yourself or others.
  • You could become depressed by what you have lost through your behaviour.
  • You could become an angry, negative person who blames everyone else for 'making' you behave in a violent way.

People make choices – they choose to act in a violent way – others do not force them to be violent. Violence can destroy lives and hurts people.

You can choose to get help if you have problems in handling anger which leads to violence. Have a look at the topic Managing the anger in your life.

What do you gain when you stop being violent?

You may like to ask yourself:

  • Do you want relationships where people feel respected, or where they feel scared?
  • Do you want people to be with you because they love and respect you, or stay because of fear?
  • Do you want people to feel scared of you, or to feel safe and able to speak their mind?
  • Do you want a life where you are under the influence of your temper or one where you are in charge of yourself?
  • Do you want relationships where people move away from you to keep themselves safe or are you looking for ways to bring them closer?

These things could change if you learn how to manage your violence.

Remember there is no situation where violence is OK.

Changing your violent behaviour

Strong feelings do not lead to sensible thinking or being able to work things out, which is why you need to plan what to do while you are feeling calm – then you can be much more in control of your behaviour.

  • Make a list of how change will make your life better. Think about how others really feel about you when you are acting in a violent way. Do they hang around because they love you, or are they too scared to get away?
  • Think about where you learned about violent behaviour.
  • Find out about assertiveness - how you can assert your rights without denying other people theirs. (See Assertiveness – what it means).
  • Think how you could express yourself without violence. Learn about managing conflict so that you aim for a win-win situation. (See Conflict and negotiation).
  • Make a plan about what you could do if your feelings become very strong. (See Managing the anger in your life).
  • Don't use alcohol and drugs to try and calm down or relax, they just make it harder to make sensible decisions.
  • Get new things in your life so you can meet new people and practice calm communication.

Change is much easier with help. There are many people who have helped lots of others before who will be really keen to help you too.

When you change your behaviour you should feel proud of yourself, as it is not an easy thing to do.

Keeping yourself safe

If you are living with a violent person it is a good idea to have a safety plan worked out.

Perhaps you could think about the work you did at school when you were younger, about keeping yourself safe – and your 'trusted adults'.

  • Is there someone you could talk about your fears with, or to go to when someone is being violent? Talk to someone, and keep on talking until you are safe.
  • Is there someone who could shelter you?
  • Who can you ring?
    • The police?
    • The Kids Help Line?
    • A youth health line?
    • A domestic violence crisis service?
    • A child abuse report line?
    • Community services?
    • A domestic violence shelter?

The numbers for these in South Australia are listed in the resource list below, and there are people trained to take calls from people just like you. Maybe put some of them in your mobile if you have one.

If you think you are possibly going to have to leave home quickly one day:

  • Hide some money so that you can get out to a safe place (transport, food, phone).
  • Work out if you will have to take someone with you, like a younger brother or sister, and how you will do this.
  • Keep some clothes packed ready to pick up and go, or leave some with a friend or relative.
  • Have the telephone numbers that you need written down already.
  • Call the police! It is an emergency! Ring 000 (Australia).

You have a right to be safe and to feel safe.


South Australia

To assist you to be safe

To help you change your violent behaviour 

  • Domestic Violence Helpline –  1800 800 098 (24 hour Helpline).



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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Youth Healthline on 1300 13 17 19 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
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